Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Idiot

As big a fan as I am of Ben Foden as a player, I was mightily unimpressed by news of the England fullback's arrest on suspicion of criminal damage following an alleged altercation with a taxi driver in central London at 3.30 on Monday morning.

Very Dennis Wise, and hardly what is expected of an international rugby player.

The RFU's current stance is that it is “a matter for the player and his club at the current time” although I sincerely hope it is not left like that.

The RFU quite rightly threw the book at Delon Armitage for his behaviour recently and, if the allegations against Foden have any substance, there’s little doubt he should face disciplinary sanctions.

Perhaps a good slap from Martin Johnson would knock a bit of sense into him.

Monday, 28 March 2011

Back to reality

Dear all,

Please accept my humble apologies. This blog has been far too focussed lately on the frivolity of Six Nations rugby and has entirely neglected to bring you the serious issues that really matter.

Up the duff
One such issue is, of course, the ground-breaking news that Ms Kelly Brook - model, actress (of sorts) and former other half of Melbourne Rebel Danny Cipriani – announced earlier this month that she is expecting a baby with current beau, ex-Scotland wing Thom Evans.

The news comes just over three months into the couple’s “whirlwind romance” which, together with the fact that the couple remain unmarried and the fact that Evans is still unemployed (after his forced retirement from he game with a serious neck injury), is an absolute scandal (stop sniggering, this is serious). No doubt single mum Ms Brook will now be expecting to be provided with a council flat and benefits at the great British taxpayer’s expense while Mr Evans, whose neck injury obviously doesn’t affect him in the trouser department, will be off fecklessly sowing his seed elsewhere on the estate. It’s the baby I feel sorry for. I mean, what sort of start in life will the little mite have with only a model and movie star and former international rugby player for parents?

While Mr Cipriani is, depending upon which tabloid one subscribes to, either “really happy for her” or “heartbroken and in despair,” perhaps the most telling contribution to the debate comes from serial reality TV fodder Kerry Katona who believes that Ms Brook may have become pregnant “too soon.” I kid you not.

Yours sincerely,
 
Outraged of Tunbridge Wells.

cc The Daily Mail

Friday, 25 March 2011

The Total Flanker Guide to: Scoring Tries

Now that the dust is beginning to settle on the annual northern hemisphere rugby-fest, I feel the time is right for me to set local hostilities aside, dust off all my worldly knowledge on the art of scoring tries and offer it to the world by way of expert opinion.

Try-scoring, you see, is a topic of which I have certain experience although, admittedly, much of that experience does date back to the Mesozoic era.

Between the ages of 15 and 19 my ability to cross the whitewash with some regularity was based largely on 2 factors: (1) being big, fast and fit; and (2) not really having a clue what I was doing.

So, whether I was playing 2nd row or back row, or occasionally when I was made to play in the backs, my game was mostly based on charging around the field following the play and invariably turning up in the right place at the right time to take a scoring pass (and, naturally, take all the credit). The truth was that I didn’t really know what I supposed to be doing and so just did what came naturally (more or less). Very Ashton-esque (minus the idiotic dives), even if I do say so myself.

Graduating to adult rugby largely put paid to all that. Exposure to coaching meant that I had to learn my role and, as I ended up playing mostly at openside flanker, as far as I could make out my role mostly involved scrabbling around on the floor trying to secure possession. Consequently I troubled A&E far more regularly than I troubled the scoreboard. At least that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.

Vets rugby has seen the pendulum swing the other way. I’d like to say that the (admittedly limited) try-scoring success that I’ve enjoyed since my much heralded return to the game has owed everything to the appliance of years of hard-earned experience. I’d like to say that but I can’t. The truth, I fear, is that the gravitational pull exerted by my ever-expanding girth has had the effect of pulling play towards me, no matter where I stand. Strange but true. It’s the appliance of science, no less.

So, what conclusions can budding try-scorers draw from the above potted history of my playing career?

1. Avoid coaching like the plague - ignorance of what it is you’re supposed to doing is vital if you’re to turn up unexpectedly in a try-scoring position (the alternative is that you just end up doing what you’re supposed to and that’s no fun at all); and

2. In the absence of pace and fitness, get fat, stand still and watch the play gravitate towards you. The closer you can stand to the tryline, the better (for obvious reasons).

Err, that’s it. Hope it helps.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Eureka

Call it a "Eureka" moment, or a lightbulb moment, or the moment when the penny dropped, but I have come to a somewhat startling conclusion this week.

Please bear with me - so shocked am I by the realisation that has dawned on me that I'm going to have to take a deep breath and type this very, very, slowly...

...ENGLAND...NEED...MIKE...TINDALL.

There, I've done it, and still don't believe what's on the screen in front of me. England Need Mike Tindall.

What? You want evidence? Well, just take a look at how utterly pants England were in the 2010 Six Nations until Paris when Tindall was restored to the centres. What? More?  Well, how about the difference in England's excellent performance with Tindall in the team against Australia in November and the subsequent shaky and Tindall-less effort against Samoa one week later. Not enough? May I refer you, then, to Dublin last weekend and the team's rudderless and shambolic capitulation to the Irish without the missing stand-in skipper, and compare that to the 4 preceding victories with him at the helm.

Now, I am not suggesting for one second that the presence of Iron Mike at Landsdowne Road would have resulted in an English victory (history would suggest otherwise). What I am suggesting, however, is that at the very least England's performance would have been a lot less flaky.

I'm afraid that England's failure during the last 7 years to nurture and develop a credible alternative at 13 does now mean that Tindall's presence in the team is disproportionately important. It may not be the fashionable thing to say, and he may have hands like paving slabs and all the pace and fleet-footed agility of a geriatric mollusc, but we do need to face the facts:

England Need Mike Tindall.

You know it makes sense.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Onwards

With the RFU and Nike suitably and deservedly mortified by the leaked video depicting the England team as Grand Slam winners, perhaps plans for the celebratory t-shirts do not necessarily have to be shelved given the successful Grand Slam campaigns for the Under 20 squad and, of course, the England Women's squad.

For England's Women it was a sixth consecutive Six Nations title and a fifth Grand Slam in six years, which is some achievement.

Mention should also be made of the contribution of former captain Catherine Spencer, who announced her retirement from international and domestic rugby this week. Spencer racked up 63 international caps, scored 18 tries and led her country to four Six Nations titles and to the 2010 Rugby World Cup Final. And, remember, all this as an amateur.

Happy retirement!

Monday, 21 March 2011

6 Nations 2011 - Chumps

OK, hot on the heels of having given credit where it's due, here's a cold, hard and mostly unfair appraisal of those who, in my humble opinion, failed to pull up trees during the last 7 weeks:

15. Lee Byrne – now plays rugby in his plimsolls, judging by his inability to keep his feet.

14. Chris Ashton – re-defined wing play in rugby union (yeah, right) before proceeding to butcher chance after chance. Needs to grow up and lose the ridiculous dive.

13.  Matt Bananaman - not an international centre. Not even a centre.

12. Nick Le Luca – even less of an international centre than Bananaman. Actually, even less of an international centre than I am!

11. Yoann Huget – I know it served Ben Cohen well, but being a big lump simply isn’t enough.

10. Dan Parks – game changing substitute at Twickenham, the problem being that he changed the game in England’s favour.

9. Ben Youngs – harsh perhaps, but utterly lost the plot in Dublin when it mattered the most. Mike Phillips a close 2nd.

1. Andrew Sheridan – the strongest man on the planet but as delicate as a hummingbird with osteoporosis.

2. Ross Ford – handed off by Ronan O’Gara. That’s Ronan O’Gara. Nuff said.

3. Euan Murray – religious beliefs now mean that he apparently only scrummages on a Tuesday between 3.00 and 4.00 am.

4. Julian Pierre – what is the point of him, exactly?

5. Simon Shaw – so far past his sell by date that even the local corner shop would refuse to stock him.

6. Nathan Hines – in no way, shape or form is this man a backrow player

7. John Barclay – managed to talk Roman Poite into giving him a yellow card at Twickenham.

8. Sebastien Chabal’s Waxwork Dummy. Need I say more?

Sunday, 20 March 2011

6 Nations 2011 - Champs

And so, time now for me to select my TOTAL FLANKER TEAM OF THE 2011 SIX NATIONS.

It's a selection with which, I'm quietly confident, not everyone will agree. Moreover the selection is made in the cold light of day, having sobered up but having not really recovered from yesterday's mauling at the hands of the Irish. Why I should still be so disappointed I don't know, especially when the majority of the England squad still looked so appallingly smug (as well as incredibly scruffy) when picking up the trophy last night. What I do know is that yesterday's match probably affected this selection (along with the '6N Chumps' selection to follow) more than it should:

15. I wouldn’t say there have been too many stellar performances from fullbacks during this 6 Nations but one man does stand out. Although Ben Foden was a model of consistency and reliability and Scotland’s Chris Patterson deserves an honourable mention, the standout performance was that of Italy’s Andrea Masi against France.

14. Many so-called experts in the press were telling us that England's Chris Ashton was "re-defining wing play" after 2 rounds. My arse. The truth is that he still has a lot to learn if he's going to get anywhere near the performance level of Tommy Bowe yesterday.

13. I’m not entirely sure what has happened to centre play. Even the French appear to have decided that centres can only be big, straight running behemoths. That’s why my choice, largely for nostalgic reasons, would have been Ireland’s Brian O’Driscoll in any event, but his display yesterday just served to underline what a fantastic player he still is.

12. So, of all the inside centres boshing the ball up the centre this tournament, who has been the most effective? Until yesterday (and this may come as a surprise to many) I had the best all round inside centre as being Shontayne Hape (despite his daft name and the fact that he is not even close to being English). The wheels came spinning off in Dublin, however, and I've therefore turned to Scotland's Sean Lamont.

11. The other wing position is a tough one to call. Mark Cueto has had a good tournament, and the sentimental vote would be for the retiring Ickle Shane Williams. Keith Earls has had his moments, as have both Maxime Medard and Vincent Clerc for France. For me though, Scotland’s most effective player, Max Evans, gets the nod.

10. With Scotland, Ireland, Wales and Italy apparently each unable to decide on who their no.1 fly half should be and with Francois Trinh-Duc suffering from the chaotic selections inside and outside him, England’s Toby Flood gets the shirt, despite never really firing following his achilles injury against France. The stick he's getting from a certain Sunday Times journalist is just ignorant nonsense.

9. Early in the tournament I thought Morgan Parra would walk this one but, like many of his countrymen, he was utterly undermined by his coach. Scotland chopped and changed, as did Ireland, and Mike Phillips had a tournament to forget for Wales. With England's Ben Youngs also out of sorts, my vote therefore goes to Italian rookie Fabio Semanzato.

1. France and England both produced scrummaging masterclasses on occasions and Tomas Domingo was his usual destructive force at loosehead for France. The most impressive displays, however, came from England rookie Alex Corbisiero who was chucked in at the deep end against the fearsome Italian and French front rows and most definitely swam. Even in the eye of the storm yesterday he kept his composure and scrummaged well and, again, the flak he's taking from certain quarters is utterly unwarranted.

2. Very good tournaments from England's Dylan Hartley and from Matthew Rees of Wales. However the one area of the French game that held up well was the scrummage, in no small part down to the ever durable William Servat.

3. For exactly the same reasons I'm going for Nicolas Mas at tighthead. That's a harsh call on Dan Cole in particular who had a great championship. Martin Castrogiavanni might also count himself unlucky, but he was undone by his failure to impose himself against England or France.

4. & 5. While the rugby press have been singing the praises of Scotland’s Richie Gray, I'm afraid I remain unconvinced. Yes, he’s a good athlete and gallops around the paddock getting his dyed blonde mop noticed, but he was also part of a Scottish tight five who were marched back at nearly every scrum. No, for me the choices are Bradley Davies for constantly dragging Wales onto the front foot and Paul O'Connell for winding back the clock yesterday to remind us of his excellence. England's Louis Deacon and Tom Palmer are unlucky to miss out but they had no answer to the Irish maelstrom.

6. Again, many have lauded the performances of Irishman Sean O’Brien, and it’s true that he’s a bull of a man and shows promise for the future. He does, however, have a way to go before being in the same league as countryman Stephen Ferris, for instance, and will need to add rugby nous and more of an end product to his game. Italy's Alessandro Zanni was consistently impressive throughout and Dan Lydiate looks the real deal for Wales. However, for an international newbie, Tom Wood was unfussily excellent (even yesterday) and therefore gets my vote.

7. It's a shame that there were no genuine "fetchers" on view this year, with teams electing to field a '6½' rather than a genuine '7' at openside. Until yesterday I though that David Wallace looked ready for the knacker's yard (shows what I know) but he was excellent against the English, while James Haskell was one of the few English forwards to stand up and be counted (rounding off a series of much improved performances for the Brand). The prize, however, goes to Sam Warburton who impressed throughout.

8. Despite a rather massive wobble against England, Sergio Parisse was his usual brilliant self and I can't really see beyond him. Honourable mentions also for Jamie Heaslip, Imanol Harinordiquy and Nick Easter.

There you go. Before yesterday there would almost certainly have been a few more Englishmen in the mix which just goes to show that it really ain't over until Adam Jones sings...

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Six Nations 2011 - (Almost) Instant Review

Well, here we are again, another 6 Nations is at an end and here's a relatively instant assessment of each nation's performance throughout the Championship, albeit tinged with the disappointment of a Grand Slam opportunity squandered:

ENGLAND - although I still feel a corner has been turned, today it was simply boys against men. Grand Slams aren't easy to win (especially when you're English) and so it proved again. Lesson learned?

FRANCE - utterly chaotic, totally bonkers. Firm favourites for RWC 2011 in my book.

IRELAND - today rediscovered their inner Munster and will almost certainly be stronger for it.

WALES - decent individual performances, but they look a team that is less than the sum of its parts.

SCOTLAND - all they need to do is pretend that every opposition is England.

ITALY - a decent fly half and an 80% goalkicker away from being more than decent.

England: Where did it all go wrong?

BUGGER!

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Let's Dance

As an aside from all the 6 Nations brouhaha, I was mightily relieved to hear that the New Zealand Rugby Union has signed an historic agreement with the Ngati Toa Maori tribe which will allow the All Blacks to continue to perform the Ka Mate Haka.

I understand that under the deal the Ngati Toa, who claim ownership of the traditional dance, have apparently been assured that use of the Haka would be "respectful" (a factor undoubtedly more significant than the supposition that they will also be paid compensation if the Haka is used in advertising).

I'm sure that the news comes as a huge relief to us all.

In a separate development, it is being reported that the RFU are locked in talks with a group representing descendants of African-American slaves in Tennessee over the continued singing of the spiritual folk song Swing Low Sweet Chariot by England rugby supporters at Twickenham.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Knockout

Not before time, it appears that the IRB are in the final stages of putting together a "robust" set of guidelines to tackle the ever increasing problem of on-field concussion.

That’s all very well, but I understand that a concussion protocol already exists whereby a player who has suffered concussion is not allowed to play or train for a minimum of three weeks unless declared fit to play after appropriate assessment by a "properly qualified and recognised neurological specialist".

All of which begs the question of why Eoin Reddan and Kelly Brown, both knocked completely sparko last weekend, have been selected to play for Ireland and Scotland respectively on Saturday.

I’ve been concussed on more than one occasion, and there’s no way anyone (recognised neurological specialist or not) can be sure these guys are ready to play again within a week.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Brutal Bananaman

Smash hits! England battering ram Banahan will not curb his brutal methods

So ran the somewhat hysterical headline in today's Daily Fail who, it appears, can't stomach the sight of an 18 stone, 6 foot 7 inch, tattooed Channel Islander playing for England in place of their soon-to-be anointed favourite adopted royal son.

The hate-mongering rag quality daily paper appears somewhat disappointed that Banahan is unlikely to be cited after his collision with Scotland's Kelly Brown on Saturday, a collison which left the Scot unconscious.

Predictably enough, the paper's readership (Outraged of Tunbridge Wells etc) are more than happy to hop on board the bandwagon in their condemnation with liberal sprinklings of words like disgraceful, thuggery and animal, despite almost certainly not even having seen the incident (or, I suspect, having ever seen any game of rugby).

Now, I'm no particular fan of the somewhat limited Banahan, but it's pretty obvious that all he did here was dip his shoulder and bounce Brown off. That he raised his arm to shrug off the tackler after contact was incidental. If anything Bahahan showed excellent technique, which is more than can be said for Brown who went in too high and with his head in the wrong place.

I'd be astonished if citing commissioner Russell Howell (who, the odious tabloid high-brow publication claims, is studying footage of the incident) gives this more than a second's thought before confirming that there's no case to answer.

Monday, 14 March 2011

Cowards


Sébastien Chabal, Jérôme Thion, Yannick Jauzion, Clément Poitrenaud, Aurélien Rougerie, Sylvain Marconnet.

"They are lacking in courage. They are good guys but cursed with what is obviously cowardice."
Marc Lièvremont.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

England: Where did it all go right?

OK, before anyone else says it, I realise that it is somewhat precipitous to be singing the praises of the current England team after a less than convincing effort today against the Sweaties and when there's still every chance that the team will come unstuck against Ireland on Saturday.

Nevertheless, and despite today's error-ridden performance, I have to say that the difference between this England team and the rabble who were wearing the red rose some 12 short months ago is still nothing short of phenomenal.

Make no mistake, 12 months ago England would have lost this match.

On Tuesday March 16th 2010 I blogged that “We Can’t Go On Like This,” a post in which I lambasted England’s performance at Murrayfield as being “joyless and so bereft of ideas” and in which I moaned “I can’t for the life of me see the “progress” that the England management assure us is happening.”

How things have changed. While still a long way short of perfect (still way too many errors committed and penalties and turnovers conceded for my liking), there is certainly no lack of attacking intent in this England team and, win or lose in Dublin, I don't think there's much doubt that England’s fortunes are finally back on an upward trajectory.

So, what can we now expect from this England team? 6 Nations Champions? Probable (unless, of course, they are mullered in Dublin). Grand Slam Winners? Possible, although failure wouldn’t exactly be the end of the world.

As for the Rugby World Cup, whatever happens next week it'd still be a brave man to bet on the men in white. Although heading in the right direction, RWC 2011 will almost certainly arrive too soon on this team's development curve.

2015, on the other hand...

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Is this really the best you can manage?

Back to matters of national importance...

Buckingham Palace has announced that the Queen's grandaughter Zara Phillips and her rugby international fiancé Mike Tindall are to marry in Edinburgh on 30th July.

Even more momentous (if it were possible) is the news that Tindall's best man is to be none other than one of this blog's all-time favourites, former England fullback and cock-up merchant Mr Iain Ballsup.

In moments like these I find myself asking what the odds are likely to be of the wedding rings being passed without mishap from one of England's most error-ridden fullbacks to a man with all the handling ability of a breeze block?

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Quote, unquote

It's a habit of mine, when reading the comments of international coaches ahead of big matches, to try to read between the lines.

For example, when talking of the new talent emerging in the England squad this season, Martin Johnson is reported to have said this week:

"They're not here for the fame or the fortune, they're here because they want to be successful rugby players and play well for England."

A simple enough statement, you may think. Or, on the other hand, might the England manager really mean that there may be certain other players whose motivation he might call into question?

And, if this be the case, I wonder to which former England fly half, currently plying his trade down under, Johnno might be referring?

Monday, 7 March 2011

Nosey

According to various reports in the press this morning, current England skipper Mike Tindall has revealed that future mother-in-law Princess Anne has asked him to get his less-than-straight nose sorted out prior to his forthcoming wedding to Zara Phillips in July.

Tindall is, however, 'not keen' on undergoing corrective nasal surgery after an incident earlier in his career when two metal plates inserted up his hooter in a previous nose job ended up being knocked out onto the pitch by a high tackle (ouch).

Friends of Mike Tindall's Nose on Facebook will no doubt be delighted by Tindall's reluctance to go under the knife.

Forget in depth analysis on the 6 Nations. Total Flanker - bringing you the stories that MATTER.

Saturday, 5 March 2011

The truth will out?

Blogging being such an instantly disposable form of communication, it is often the case that I might get on my high horse about something and then completely forget about it and move on, never to mention it again.

I am pleased, therefore, to have remembered to go back and investigate whether there had been any developments in the story of Tuui Radrava.

Radrava, you may recall, was a York Railway Institute player who suffered a serious brain injury earlier this season following an alleged on-pitch assault during a home match against Thornensians RUFC.

Three Thornensians players were arrested during the North Yorkshire Police investigation into the injury. It turns out, however, that  back in December all three men were released without charge and the police investigation was closed.

The matter, it appears, was referred to the RFU. Since then, silence.

If anyone can cast any light on events then please feel free to do so. In the meantime I shall remain Holmes-esque in my determination to get to the truth.

Friday, 4 March 2011

A grand day out...

A host of well known ageing southern hemisphere stars will be strutting their stuff for a very worthy cause at Old Deer Park, the home of London Welsh RFC, this Sunday (6th March).

Raising funds for the Queensland flood appeal and the victims of the Christchurch earthquake, the highlight of the day will undoubtedly be the match between an Australian XV and a Pacific Barbarians team, which kicks off at 3pm.

The Australian XV will be led by former Wallaby George Smith and will be coached by Hairsprays coach Scott Johnson and former Australia fly half and World Cup winner Michael Lynagh.

The Pacific Barbarians will be captained by former Barnstaple 2nd XV flanker Jerry Collins and is said to feature the likes of Filo Tiatia, Henry Paul, Mosese Raluni, Viliame Satala and Sililo Martens, as well as London Welsh and Tonga back row forward Epi Taione (aka Paddy Power). I see Tana Umaga is also on the list, although his presence would be remarkable given that he's supposed to be playing for the Chiefs at home to the Rebels tomorrow.

The charity day will also feature an Aussie Rules match, an Aussie beer tent, live music, an international touch rugby match, a tag rugby match between Queensland and New South Wales, a touch rugby tournament for kids and a Pacific village, including traditional music and food & drink.

All the action gets underway at Old Deer Park from 10:30am on Sunday. Tickets priced at £10. VIP tickets are available at £100 + VAT per person, which will include a buffet menu, table wine and reserved seats.

I can certainly think of worse ways to spend a Sunday. For further information email: info@truesouthgroup.com or call 07501 067603.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Big Ben not for Sale

News today that former England wing Ben Cohen has threatened to retire at the end of the season after being told he is surplus to requirements at Sale Sharks.

It's fair to say that I've never been Cohen's biggest fan - an admittedly irrational dislike probably based on nothing more concrete than his penchant for posing in his underwear at every opportunity.

To be fair to him, his purple patch in 2002-2003 did coincide with (and, I reluctantly concede, contribute to) England's march to the World Cup. I also can't argue with the stats that show Cohen to be England's joint second highest try-scorer (even if the majority of his 31 international tries involved, as I perhaps somewhat harshly recall, little more than him flopping over the line after the good work of others).

"Sale don't want me anymore because they're trying to spend more money in the pack," blubs Cohen. "I've got another couple of years left in me so I'll try to get a club in the Premiership. If not, I'll retire."

Promises, promises.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Move it

I received an email last week from my rugby club (well, when I say "my" rugby club I mean the club I attend on an increasingly infrequent basis). The email kindly informed me that a powerpoint presentation of all the club's on-field moves and calls was now available for all players.

Moves? Calls? I thought. What moves and calls?

The email stressed the importance of every player (backs AND forwards) being familiar with every set play and call across all teams.

Set plays? I thought. What set plays?

The idea is that knowledge of the moves will enable every player to slide relatively seamlessly between the sides, ensure training sessions are spent actually training.

Training? I...well. you get the general idea.

All in all, although somewhat alien to this particular dinosaur, I guess it does indicate just how far the club is progressing under the stewardship of England Women's prop Rocky Clarke.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

The Raeburn Shield...

...an alternative history of world rugby.

I stumbled across an article about this recently on Scrum.com and it rang a few bells as I'm sure I've heard the Raeburn Shield mentioned before somewhere (can't think where).

But what on earth, I hear you ask, is the Raeburn Shield?

I'm glad you asked because it appears that, amidst all the hullabaloo (good word that, hullabaloo) about who will win the Six Nations, or who will triumph at this year's World Cup, the big question should in fact be who are the current holders of the Raeburn Shield and how the devil can my country win it?

The answer, of course, to the first part of the question is South Africa (who won it from England last November) and, in order to wrestle the Raeburn Shield from their grasp, all a team has to do is to turn up and beat the current holders.

It's a simple enough concept. You win the Shield by beating the current holders and keep the Shield until you're next beaten.

The only flaw, sadly, is that the Raeburn Shield does not actually exist or, at least, it does not exist in any corporeal form. As a hypothetical concept, however, it's pretty much flawless, and the chaps over at http://raeburnshield.com/ (who, it might be argued, have a little bit too much time on their hands) have even re-constructed an historical lineage for the Raeburn Shield dating back to the very first first game of international rugby union between Scotland and England at Raeburn Place, Edinburgh in 1871.

Scotland - Raeburn Shield winners in 1871
In that first ever game the winner (Scotland) won the mythical Shield, a trophy which has continued to be played for, won and lost until this day. Even the likes of Samoa (1999), Romania (1984) and Wales (sorry, couldn't resist) have held the Shield at some point in their histories and next up for the Raeburn Shield challenge is Australia who take on the Saffas on 23rd July in the first match of the Tri Nations.

Far from being satisfied with its metaphysical status, however, the Shield's supporters are campaigning to have the Shield recognised with a proper, real, physical trophy and you can show your support for the concept by joining the campaigners' Facebook Group.

So far, sadly, the idea has fallen on deaf ears (mainly belonging to the IRB) but it seems to me that it's an idea that's just about mad enough to work. After all, there's usually some non-sensical, meaningless, sponsor-led trophy awarded at the end of most international matches these days - why not, then, award a trophy that already has such a rich history and widespread support?